Appetizers Beyond Black Olives and Stuffed Celery
By Charlie Burke
Appetizers before a holiday dinner in my family were limited to
canned black olives, mixed nuts and celery stuffed with cream cheese (I have
fond memories of our older son, Kevin, walking around the house with colossal
black olives on each finger tip when he was five years old). With attention
centered on preparation for the big meal, cooks have little time for preparation
of complicated appetizers. With this in mind, I thought we'd offer several ideas
which are simple to prepare or can be done ahead. Also, they are light and
flavorful so guests will be ready for dinner.
Salty and colorful, these go well with drinks. These should be
prepared a few days ahead and are a great improvement over bland canned olives.
assorted olives such as calamata, nicoise and Sicilian green. Specialty stores
and most supermarkets sell mixes.
virgin olive oil sufficient to cover olives
1 lemon, grated (try not to include the white pith which is bitter)
teaspoon red pepper flakes
teaspoon of oregano or herbes de Provence
cloves garlic, finely chopped
of ½ lemon or to taste
ground black pepper to taste
teaspoon of sea salt
Mix all ingredients and store in a jar or covered container in
the refrigerator, giving them a shake occasionally. Bring to room temperature
The briny sweet flavor of Damariscotta oysters may well be
remembered long after the holiday meal is forgotten. Whenever we are in mid
coastal Maine, my wife and I always find a way to get to Damariscotta and to the
Fisherman's Catch, a fish market on the banks of the Damariscotta River, the
cleanest estuary on the east coast. Featured at the Fisherman's Catch are farm
raised oysters from the river which are the equal of any I've had on either
coast. In addition to the freshest fish, they also carry locally smoked salmon,
trout, mussels and shrimp. Living in the center of New Hampshire, we find it
convenient to give these friendly folks a call and order live oysters which
arrive by Fed Ex the next day.
I spoke with owner Gayna Avery who says she can fill orders
placed Monday or early Tuesday in time for Wednesday delivery (207-563-5888 or
1-866-232-5888). Keep these numbers to order oysters and smoked seafood for
Christmas and New Years.
Shuck oysters (at least 4 per person) and place on a platter of
crushed ice. Serve with lemon wedges, a little horseradish , and a small dish of
red wine vinegar, chopped shallots and fresh ground pepper. Please no bottled
cocktail sauce which masks the delicate flavor. I prefer them plain or with a
little lemon juice.
If you order oysters, it won't add much to the shipping to
include smoked salmon or other smoked seafood, or check out local smoke houses
or fish markets.
Serving is simple: Place salmon or a mix of salmon, trout and
mussels on a platter. Add lemon wedges and a cup of mayonnaise mixed with lemon
juice, capers and crushed pepper (taste as you mix until you have a mild lemony
taste). Supply thin slices of toasted French bread or put the seafood in
individual leaves of Belgian endive for a different presentation.
Fruit and cheese:
Blue cheese and fresh pears are a perfect match; simply slice
ripe pears, plate and crumble blue cheese (try to find one from New England)
over the fruit. Add some chopped pecans or walnuts to finish and you have a
quick and quite elegant dish.
I'd like to suggest Farnum Hill ciders to accompany these
appetizers; they would also be great with the meal. These are produced and
fermented in wood barrels in Lebanon, N.H. and range from semi dry to extra dry.
They are great for Thanksgiving because this was the beverage served in colonial
times. They no more taste like apple cider than champagne tastes like grape
juice. They have low alcohol and can be matchd with any food. The Extra-dry
still or Farnum Hill Extra-dry (think brut champagne) would match perfectly with
the oysters. Check out their web site: www.farnumhillciders.com
We hope we've given you some ideas for a fresh approach to a to
the upcoming holidays!
organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association (www.nhfma.org). His column & recipes
appear weekly in The Heart of New England's newsletter... get a free
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